Home Art and Literature Death cannot be Cheated

Death cannot be Cheated

Photo: AH/OV

– Shabana Chowdhury Ahmed

In the Dark Ages superstition and ignorance lead to the practice of ritual killings! Ancient civilizations and religions to please their so called Gods offered human sacrifices. Women and children were the most venerable people. Modern Age with the rule of law today protects the rights of women and children but ritual killings still take place in remote villages in many countries around the world, because the long arm of law does not reach them. The Witch Doctor, The Medicine Man performs ritual human sacrifices among the ignorant and superstitious villagers. We now live in The Space Age and Modern Technology yet superstitious beliefs are still very much alive! A story teller tells her tale.

Far away from civilization when explorers did not venture into the depth of the tropical jungle, a small tribe thrived under a king whose mind was seeped with superstition and ignorance. The practice of ritual human sacrifices was an integral part of their culture. Nature provided them with food but the fear of the unknown kept the practice of ritual human sacrifices alive.

The witch doctor was feared by all as he was the one who decided when a human sacrifice was to take place. Young girls and new borns were sacrificed to their Gods for blessings. From time to time these people would kidnap young girls and new borns from other tribes for their human sacrifices as such they did not sacrifice their own children. These people also practiced the ritual burning alive of a recently widowed woman by force.

The king had a son, a fearless warrior who spent his days hunting ferocious animals. The warrior son always hunted alone. One day the king fell very ill and died. The Queen was burned alive on the funeral pyre of her husband. The son became the king. The witch doctor advised the young king to take a wife. The young king resisted by saying that he will in due time. On one of his hunting trips he went far away from his tribe. Night was falling so he climbed onto a tree for shelter. In the dark he saw a light in the distance. He was cold and hungry so he climbed down from the tree and walked towards the light. He saw a fire burning and a cooking pot hanging above it. The aroma that came from the pot made him more hungry. As he approached towards the pot a beautiful girl came out from a hut behind the pot on fire. He was amazed by the beauty of the girl that he kept on staring till the girl broke the silence by asking him if he was hungry. He could only nod his head. She gave him a bowl of food from the simmering pot. As he began eating he suddenly realized that the girl spoke his tribal language. Intrigued, he asked her how she spoke it! She said that she had learned it from her old mother. The mother hearing voices came out of the hut. The warrior king introduced himself and wanted to know why they were in the jungle away from people. The old woman said that she had once lived in the king’s tribe but after her daughter was born her husband became sick and sores erupted all over his body. The people being superstitious drove them out of the village. Ever since they have been living at the edge of the forbidden jungle. The warrior king was curious and asked why it was forbidden to venture into this jungle. The old woman said that people and animals that wandered into that jungle were never seen again. Her husband, she added, went into the jungle to search for a plant to cure the sores on his body but he was never seen again.

Morning arrived with the sun that shone brightly. The king took his leave and returned to his village. He could not forget the face of that beautiful girl so he took his warriors and went to fetch the girl and her mother. He brought them to his village and told the girl’s mother that he would marry her daughter. The mother was happy and gave her consent. The marriage took place and all seemed well till one dark night a tiger entered the village and took a man sleeping outside his hut. The next morning the warrior king and his warriors went to hunt the man-eating tiger. The day passed, as dust fell the warriors came back carrying the body of the king who had been mauled to death by the tiger. The tribe began preparations for the funeral of their king. His bride, now a widow, was to be burned alive on the funeral pyre of her husband.

The widow was kept locked in a hut till dawn. A warrior stood guard at the door. The mother gave the guard food which was drugged. The guard soon fell asleep. Dawn was slowly breaking over the horizon. The mother opened the door and told her daughter ‘I will follow soon but you must run fast, away from the village without stopping till you have reached our previous hut, then TURN’, but the daughter ran away quickly without hearing, ‘right not left and wait for me at the river bank’.

The girl reached the hut. She heard her mother say TURN but not which way, so without further thought she turned left and walked into the forbidden jungle. As she walked she noticed an eerie silence. The jungle was covered by giant trees and plants. She was tired and weak, so could not watch her footsteps. She tripped over a protruding root of a giant tree and fell forward into a soft sticky substance. Being unable to move she was sucked into the funnel of a giant carnivorous plant.


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